Kangaroo Island FEASTival

20141215_111327Penneshaw – your first view of KI from the ferry

Late last year I was fortunate enough to spend a long and (almost) child-free weekend on Kangaroo Island. In order to celebrate a clutch of significant birthdays a large group of us booked out a couple of the Kangaroo Beach Lodges and headed over, cars filled to the brim with essentials (mostly red wine and beer). I really need to write about that …

Just prior to that, I’d been invited to the official KI FEASTival launch at the Central Market. While KI might be deservedly well known for wildlife, its food and wine industry is blossoming and the annual FEASTival, now in its fourth year, is going from strength to strength.

This year, FEASTival runs from 1 – 8 May and there are a ton of events on a wide range of scales. If you’re seeking a smaller, more intimate experience you will find those, alongside much bigger dinners for a hundred or so people.

Over the last few months I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with a number of KI food and wine producers and they have all been enthusiastic about their produce and passionate about opportunities to share it with the wider South Australian community. For many of them, the island’s isolation, while generally a blessing, can cause problems when it comes to ‘exporting’ to the mainland so visiting is the perfect way of sampling as much as possible!

From my own trip to the island, my two must see picks would be Island Pure, sheep dairy and soon home to the island’s only brewery and Kangaroo Island Spirits. Even if you don’t like gin, the KIS cellar door is just remarkable.

If you haven’t been to KI for a while (or if you’ve never been!) then early May is the perfect time to go.

The Tonsley Hotel

20150207_174921fish and chips from the children’s menu – good enough to eat

date of visit: Saturday 7 February 2015

Talk about a weird summer. January started with a fierce blast of heat which subsided almost immediately and since then things were pretty mild. Then February hit …

Faced with the prospect of heating the house further by cooking we decided that dinner out would be a good idea. Always better to use someone else’s aircon!

Generally, for our early evening meals with Master 4 in tow we look to the Entertainment Book. However, we couldn’t face driving to Glenelg or Marion and wanted something close to home. Our first choice didn’t start serving dinner til 6pm, which ruled it out. There was much umming, aahing and general agonising, until eventually Andy took charge and made the decision to go to the Tonsley (for what it’s worth, not in the Entertainment Book).

We headed off with very low expectations. It’s in a less than glamorous area and it has a pretty low (63% at the time of writing) approval rating on urbanspoon.

However, the big plus for us was that on a Saturday they serve ALL day, so if you have a tired little one in tow you can turn up as early as you like, which in our case was shortly after 5pm.

The Tonsley (near the junction of South Road and Five Ash Drive) is a hotel in the proper sense of the word – offering both accommodation and food (and bars). The use of ‘hotel’ synonymously with ‘pub’ is, I think, something of an Australianism. Try asking someone in the UK for the nearest hotel and they will point you towards accommodation, not refreshing beverages …

The Tonsley is arranged so that the accommodation is set well back from both the ‘pub’ part of the hotel and South Road. We were so early we even managed to nab a park in the shade.

Closest to South Road is the front bar (named the Chrysler Bar) which also serves food, but we headed into the Bistro. The area is HUGE, with a massive bar and lounge area, complete with grand piano, several function areas and a big dining room. The bar area is really very pleasant – the industrial exterior of the pub belies a surprisingly plush and calm interior. It would be well suited for a quiet drink (probably not on a Friday night though!).

We were seated quickly and ordered smartly too. Andy chose the crispy Asian spiced squid, I opted for the half portion chicken schnitzel and Master Four decided on the fish and chips from the children’s menu.

20150207_174615half portion chicken schnitzel parmi – perfectly proportioned

Unsurprisingly, the food came out quickly but, by pub standards, it was very good. The child’s fish and chips was a nicely battered piece of gar, served with the obligatory chips but also SALAD. At the time, and even now, I could not be effusive enough about this. So many places, pubs or not, offer really sub-standard children’s food. I never understand why they cannot just offer smaller portions of the main menu and I am so often frustrated by the lack of salad or vegetable offered to children. I know that (supposedly) many children refuse to eat vegetables or salad but that seems a poor reason for venues to fail to offer the same sides to smaller diners. Children are smart … if they hear or observe too often that children don’t like or eat greens then they will live up to that expectation. So a big thank you to the Tonsley for the salad.

This alone pretty much guarantees I would return to the Tonsley. However, I was also thrilled to be able to choose a half portion of schnitzel. I love schnitzel but loathe being faced with super human portions of meat which are either left only partly eaten or I end up stuffing myself and feeling rather sleepy …

Andy really enjoyed his squid. As a change from a standard salt and pepper squid it had a Chinese five spice twist to it, and was tender, tasty and not greasy.

The service was efficient and friendly. While the staff were obviously getting ready for an evening of big functions they did not drop the ball once. It is quite obvious that this is one well oiled machine.

Another big plus is that while the Tonsley does have a small video game area to entertain children there is no massive indoor playground – thus ensuring that we could keep Master Four at the dinner table for the duration of the meal (something about which I verge on manic when we dine as a family, without other children!).

Overall, the Tonsley scored a massive tick from all of us. Yes, it is pub fare, but it is done with care and I don’t think you can ask for much more than that.

Tonsley Hotel
1274 South Road
Clovelly Park SA 5042
phone: 08 8276 8099

Tonsley Hotel on Urbanspoon

Ryo’s Noodles, Gouger Street

20150317_185607a rather massive bowl of spicy noodles

Disclaimer: I was a guest at a blogger dinner at Ryo’s Noodles

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a dinner at Ryo’s Noodles on Gouger Street. Being a die-hard carb junkie I had no choice but to attend. However, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve been to Japan but once. And that ‘once’ was a lay-over at Narita Airport. I was really lucky in that I was travelling with a friend with a strong command of Japanese and we spent an excellent night out in Narita eating eel and drinking beer. But that is where my experience of Japanese food as cooked in Japan starts and ends. I love soba noodles (on that journey I flew JAL and cold soba noodles were offered at every meal – I was in heaven), I’m less keen on udon and ramen tread a happy middle ground.

Now we have my non-existent Japanese food critiquing credentials out of the way …

Ryo’s is a small restaurant on Gouger Street and while you might miss it if you were on the look out for it, you’ll find it easily enough. It is set up with both normal tables and tall benches, which run down the centre. It’s quite smart inside, although it is very snug and I imagine that if there are large groups in (such as we were!) they end up rather dominating the vibe. But you don’t head here for a romantic date night or intimacy … this is much more somewhere where you grab a big hearty bowl of noodles on your way from A to B.

Judging by the enormous bowls of noodles that were heading out of the kitchen, I decided I didn’t need an entrée. As a bonus, plenty of other people thought they did and so I was able to try the takoyaki (battered balls of octopus which I found a little bland) and the kara-age (fried chicken – which was fine but again didn’t really pack a lot of flavour).

20150317_185354kara-age – deep fried chicken with mayonnaise … not too much wrong with that …

For my noodles, I chose the one spicy option on the menu. Having done a bit of online research before heading out I knew that a lot of people find the soups at Ryo’s too salty and so I asked for no salt (I’m usually reasonably sensitive to salt and I’d had a salty lunch!). The food all came out very quickly and I was impressed that my spicy noodles were actually spicy (enough to make my nose run!) and my request for no salt had been honoured.

It was a ridiculously large bowl of soup and I ate/drank more of it than I strictly needed to. Most of the noodle dishes hovered around the $13-14 mark which is not bad considering you will not need anything else (and, if we’re talking lunch time, you can easily pay $10 for a boring old sandwich). Given how huge it was, I think that if I were to return to Ryo’s, I would be opting for a combination of entrées (because they do have gyoza!) or perhaps trying out one of the cold noodle dishes.

Ryo’s is not licensed – I was more than happy to drink the bottomless matcha green tea on offer but I know plenty of people for whom the lack of a beer with their noodles could well be a deal breaker.

My overall impression is that Ryo’s is really much more of a lunch venue – service is quick and it’s not the type of venue where you linger over several courses. If you order noodles you won’t fit in dessert! With winter approaching, it will be the perfect spot to head for a bowl of Friday lunch ramen which will warm you up and keep you full all afternoon.

Ryo’s Noodles
80 Gouger Street
Adelaide SA 5000
phone: (08) 8410 0752
(no website or menu on line)

Ryo's Noodles on Urbanspoon